The banner on the home page of the German citizens’ group – Bündnis Bürgerwille e.V. – says “Recht gilt auch in der EU” (Law also applies in the EU) and the sub-header “EU – Verträge müssen eingehalten werden” (EU treaties must be complied with). I have sympathy for that sentiment but not the politics of the so-called ‘Citizens’ Will Alliance’, which recently sought to block German government approval of the much vaunted, much delayed, fairly small recovery plan. The mainstay of the EU is the Eurozone because it comprises 19 of the 27 EU nations and the largest nations. The dynamics of the EU economy are driven by what happens in the largest Member States of the Eurozone. The European Commission has been dithering for more than a year to get a fiscal stimulus plan in place and by the time it eventually gets the pittance proposed flowing, significant economic and social damage will have been done, given that if all 27 states ratify the plan, funds (loans mostly) will only start flowing in July – like 18 months after the pandemic began. The Bündnis Bürgerwille group has challenged the German participation in the German Constitutional Court, the Bundesverfassyngsgericht, which delivered its (interim) decision last week. Bündnis Bürgerwille lost, or did they?
It is Wednesday and I have had lots of unscheduled commitments (that just come out of the blue) to attend to today. So not much writing. I did have time to read the latest IMF – Fiscal Monitor, April 2021 : A Fair Shot – which was published on April 7, 2021. The schizoid nature of this institution continues to evolve and it will be hard for the austerity mavens to unambiguously use it as a cover for their arguments when they resume their call for public sector spending cuts etc. Music follows.
When the British Office of National Statistics published the January 2021 trade figures in March, the first after Brexit was finalised, they showed a 42 per cent decline in UK exports to the European Union. Exports fell by £5.6 billion and imports fell by 28.8 per cent or £6.6 billion. it was the worst monthly drop since records were first published on a monthly basis in 1997. The Remain crowd went berserk and the ‘I told you so’ chorus was raucous. I wonder where there voice has gone now the February 2021 trade figures show a 46 per cent rise in UK exports to the UK. Boats and trucks are carrying goods to the EU from Britain still. We shouldn’t take the monthly data too seriously, especially as it has been complicated by the transition arrangements and COVID. There will be costs from the change in border arrangements. But the predictions of doom are proving to be wildly inaccurate. I have my flame suit standing by.
Project-Syndicate recently published the latest Op Ed (April 16, 2021) from former German finance minister and current President of the German Bundestag, Wolfgang Schäuble – Are We Risking a Debt Pandemic?. He is the person who personified the so-called ‘die schwarze null’ (Black Zero) while finance Minister. His conduct as finance minister was an instrumental element in extending the GFC across the Eurozone. He is still influential in European politics and his latest Op Ed makes it clear that the austerity mindset is still alive and well despite the current relaxation of the Stability and Growth Pact rules during the pandemic. The problem is that if Europe reverts back to that mindset, the essential changes to the monetary union that are necessary to make it viable will never be discussed. It will be just more of the same. And that same is pretty ordinary for the common folk across the EMU.
Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blog posts that I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Labour Force, Australia, March 2021 – released today (April 15, 2021), shows that the Australian labour market continues to recover – and while the recovery had stalled a bit over the latter part of 2020, the March result builds on the strong February result. Employment increased by 0.5 per cent (70,700) in the month and unemployment fell by 27,100 to 778,100 persons. As a result the unemployment rate fell by 0.2 points to 5.6 per cent, even though participation rose by 0.2 points. Overall, a good outcome. The main uncertainty now is that the recovery to this point has been dependent on government fiscal support, which ended in March 2021. Given the labour market is still quite a margin from where it was in March 2020, the idea that the government would withdraw its fiscal support is not a compelling option. We will see the first results of the fiscal withdrawal in the next month’s data and I expect things to not look as rosy as they are this month. Further, undertainty has now entered the equation as a result of the vaccination bungling by the federal government. We will see how that plays out in the coming months. Overall, the recovery is still too slow and more government support by way of large-scale job creation is needed.
It’s Wednesday and my snippet day, which just means I don’t write as much so that I can write more elsewhere. But today, I summarise some research that has just been released which seeks to assess the sensitivity of the commitment by the Italian population to the euro to tolerating further austerity. The research finds that if the technocrats start forcing Italy into austerity measures via a return to the Excessive Deficit Mechanism (and enforcement of the Stability and Growth Pact fiscal rules) then the majority will prefer to leave the Economic and Monetary Union. The majority are happy to retain the euro but only if there is no austerity and structural reforms imposed on the nation. This is a big swing in public sentiment and will give the neoliberals in Brussels one huge headache. Either their neoliberal monetary union is done, or they will face instability from one of the largest euro economies.
This is the second and final part of my discussion of the – Economic Affairs Commitee (House of Lords) – hearings into – Quantitative Easing: Committee to examine whether inflationary fears justified, the future of QE, and the merits of ‘helicopter money’ approaches. In Part 1 we learned that statements made by notable central bank governors (or equivalent) to the public about what they are doing are highly questionable given the evidence given by two prominent witnesses to the House of Lords enquiry. The evidence doesn’t just refer to matters pertaining to the UK. We learned that it is obvious that large-scale government bond buying programs by central banks are funding fiscal deficits despite the denial from the central bank officials. In this Part, we find more revealing statements by the witnesses further suggest that the central bank officials, including those from the Reserve Bank of Australia governor, are, at best misleading. At worst – use your own words.
Remember on February 3, 2021, when the RBA governor Philip Lowe spoke at the National Press Club in Australia and told the audience that the Reserve Bank of Australia is not funding the federal government deficit, either in part, or, in full. This was in response to being asked whether the current situation that sees the RBA buying large swathes of government bonds are in any way consistent with Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). Well, since he gave that speech and answered questions from Australia’s journalists, a very interesting session was held by the – Economic Affairs Committee (House of Lords) – in London as part of the Committee’s investigation into the ins-and-outs of Quantitative Easing (QE). And some very revealing statements were made in those hearings which the RBA governor might reflect on. They rather directly challenge the veracity of his public statements about MMT in recent years. They also expose the way in which public officials tell the public they are not doing A but B, while doing exactly A. The cat is progressively getting out of the bag.! This is Part 1 of a two-part series explaining how the cat is escaping.